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Man's 'Eating While Driving' Charge Is Dismissed, but Why?

After being ticketed and told by an officer, "You can't just go down the road eating a hamburger," it turns out an Alabama man won't be charged with eating while driving after all.

An officer in Cobb County, Georgia, originally ticketed Madison Turner under the state's distracted driving law after observing Turner eating a McDonald's double quarter pounder with cheese for two miles. But a county solicitor dismissed the charge, believing the state did not have enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, The Associated Press reports.

So what evidence did the county have, and why didn't they think it was enough?

Distracted Driving Laws

Many states' distracted driving statutes use broad language, intended to capture a wide range of activities that might impair a driver's ability to drive safely. Georgia's distracted driving law is no different, and states:

"A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle."

As used above, "any action" can include reading, applying makeup, having pets in your lap, and, apparently, eating. The ticket issued to Turner cited code Section 40-6-241, and listed "eating while driving" under the remarks section.

Eating While Driving

There was no dispute that Turner was in fact eating while he was driving, as he admitted as much to the officer. But had the case gone to trial, the legal arguments would likely have centered on whether his eating distracted him "from the safe operation of [his] vehicle."

In this case, the officer didn't note any bad driving on the citation and there was no accident. Considering the driving conditions were clear and dry during the daylight hours, absent any bad driving from Turner, prosecutors may have had a difficult time proving that he was distracted by his burger.

While this may be good news for Turner, this case probably shouldn't be read as a license to dine and drive. This man was able wrangle his appetite and his automobile at the same time, but the same may not be true for you and your next meal. When it comes to navigating traffic and our taste buds: Safety first.

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